Non League Club

ROOK TO YOUR BISHOP, CHECK – Bishops Stortford

Posted in Uncategorized by stuartnoel on November 11, 2010

Now here was a turn up for the books.  Me, in London, on a Tuesday?  Well too bloomin’ right.  And lo and behold not just one game this week, but TWO!  First up was a trip up the M11 to watch the mighty Rooks trying to extend their 3 match unbeaten run under Tim O’Shea at Bishop’s Stortford and then just 24 hours later I was making my long heralded return to Upton Park to see Giggles Grant’s team take on West Brom.

Confidence was obviously high in the Rooks camp after their biggest, in fact, only away win of the season at Weston-super-Mare on Saturday.  The team had discovered a hard belly, being prepared to fight to the death for their points.  Exactly what the team had lacked in previous seasons, but a little over the top after mass brawls against Bromley, Dartford and Weston had resulted in two red cards and countless bookings.

Fixtures sometimes seem to conspire against teams, and after the longest away trip of the season to Weston on Saturday, Lewes headed north up the M11 for the 3rd longest road trip just 72 hours later.  Despite it being a cold and wet Tuesday night, the number of Rooks who arrived at Woodside Park was surprisingly high.  Of course the board were well represented with Mr Marber, Mr Williams, Mr Leith and Mr Dobres all wearing their colours and joining the dozen or so hard core regulars – well they could hardly all fit into Stortford’s compact and bejous boardroom at the same time.

A quick turn around at TBIR towers, and a dream journey saw me pull up in the car park in Woodside Park less than an hour later.  I headed into the bar and found the Lewes Lunatic Fringe propping up the bar along with Chairman Ibbo, complete with his mysterious Chairman’s bag (similar to Danny Last’s Non League Bag but with added cigars and fine wine).

Bishop’s Stortford 1 Lewes 0 – Woodside Park – Tuesday 9th November 2010
Last season when Lewes came to the furthest corner of Hertfordshire the home fans generated some real noise and passion.  Bash the Bishop, a member of the clergy who had a big drum and wasn’t afraid to use it, generated some real noise for the “Blue Brazil” but it was sadly lacking tonight.  A quick count of the crowd saw varying numbers close but ultimately under 200 (later “official” figures suggested it was 268 although I am sure you cannot count the players as part of the crowd) which was very disappointing.  The draw of Lewes at home on a Tuesday night in November obviously didn’t match an evening of Australian Masterchef – what is wrong with people today.

The Lewes players looked fit.  Not in a FHM Swimwear special way but in an energetic way.  They used the ball well, with Murphy in his fancy dan boots providing some tricks down the left.  And it was the youngster who came closest to opening the scoring when his well struck free kick hit the foot of the post and rebounded too quickly for Hutchinson to take advantage of, before Hutchinson then saw his header well saved by the Stortford keeper.

The response from the LLF was a Marber inspired rendition of “We are Community, I’ve got all my members with me” to the tune of We are Family, although the take up rate was rather muted.  Seconds left in the half and a rare slip in the Lewes defence saw a Stortford forward through on goal.  Winterton tried to push him wide but clearly took him out.  With the home crowd baying for a red it was with relief (and some laughter) that the referee produced a yellow for the keeper.  And of course just to rub salt in the Stortford wounds, he proceeded to save the resulting penalty.

The second half was a battle of attrition with both teams flirting around the edge of the area.  Lewes’s new secret weapon, the “Rory Delap” throw in of Porter caused a few problems but not enough to really worry the Stortford keeper.  Twenty odd minutes to go and a rare mix up in the Lewes defence saw Hutchinson dawdle, Winterton hesitate and Stortford’s Duane Jackson pounce to score the only goal of the game.

Defeat is not a word in O’Shea’s vocabulary at Lewes and so there would be no beer stops on the way home tonight, which meant that Deaks and Dave had no intention of travelling back on the team coach, opting for Fuller taxi’s back to Bromley.


BASH THE BISHOP – Bishop’s Stortford FC

Posted in Uncategorized by stuartnoel on March 21, 2010

Question: What do you get for £400 at West Ham United, £250 at Reading, £120 at Lincoln City and £50 in the non-leagues?

Answer: To have the privilege to run out onto the pitch as a mascot (children only before anyone gets too excited!)

And what do you get for that?  Well in the case of Lincoln City, just abouteverything actually..For your £250 at Reading you have to supply your own kit, West Ham you get a copy of Match of the Day on DVD but what about your £50 at the non-league level?  Well read on to find out…

So this weekend we headed back up the M11 for the battle between two of the worst teams in the Blue Square South based on current form.  Bishops Stortford, with just one win from their last six and Lewes, with three draws and three defeats from theirs was hardly impressive form, but for one day the football was taking a back seat.  You see since coming to Woodside Park back in September we have had a soft spot for the club thanks to their general outlook on the football world, and we noticed a bargain when we saw one.

And so when the whole TBIR family drove into the car park at the ground at 2pm, it was not just to watch the game but to “be a part of it” as Carlsberg would say.  For not only was this very blog sponsoring the Match Ball, but the littlest Fuller’s were both mascots.  And as an added twist, Lewes official photographer, match reporter and general man in the know, James Boyes, was unable attend so he asked me to pen the details and snap a few snaps.  One hat tick, two hats hmm, three hats you what?  But four hats.  Well with a head as big as old big head himself I decided to give it a go.

I will not reveal how much of our hard earnt beer money had to change hands but when I was told by John Turner, the club’s commercial maestro and officially in the “Footballest nicest man” gallery about the deal he could do me, I almost bit his hand off.  Christmas presents sorted all round.  It wasn’t about the fame and fortune that goes with sponsorship at this level (after all look what happened to Bob Evans Taxi services Ltd when they sponsored Dorchester recently!) but it is about putting something back.  John himself welcomed us in, sorted kits out, signed programmes and a tunnel pass before explaining he doesn’t do this to make a profit, but to “see the happy faces of families”.  FIFA 5 stars to you John.

With the EFW team rolling into town as well with the Lewes Lunatic Fringe it was sure to be an interesting afternoon.   The girls were excited.  In Lolly’ s case it was same old, same old as this would be her third run out in the middle.  Nothing like the big stage as she had previously led out London Irish at Twickenham (aged just 3) and last year England Under 21’s versus France.  However, this was all new for Littlest Fuller and her nervous excitement was probably due to the fact she was going to her first ever concert at the O2 for the X-Factor Live at 7pm (oh how I was looking forward to that one).  It was also a rare afternoon out for CMF as she is normally on child care duties, but today was enjoying the facilities to the full with an offer from me to act as chauffeur for the day.

So after the girls were kitted up and taken to be amused on the pitch by a couple of the Bishops Stortford girls team we were able to enjoy a well earned beer for being “The Best Parents in the World”, apparently.  Now there are a few things you never see at football.  I have never seen a badger, or a Reliant Robin, or even a photo of Jimmy Saville.  But I had also never seen a vicar, complete with his dog-collar on.  And outside of football I had never seen a vicar carrying a drum, nor a drummer selling raffle tickets.  But here, in the bar was a drum carrying, raffle ticket selling vicar.  One for the trivia album!  The buzzer sounded and it was time to see the girls big moment.  “Just wander onto the pitch if you want to take pictures – the referee wont mind” added John as they walked out…so we did.

Stortford had just about accumulated enough points to avoid the drop from the Blue Square South.  Essentially, Weymouth were down already, and then it was two from three involving Weston-super-Mare, Worcester City and Lewes.  So this game could either keep Lewes’s season alive for a few more weeks, or put the home team 15 points clear of the drop zone.  Since our last visit top scorer Charlie Sheringham had driven up the M11 (and along the A14 for a mile) to Histon, leaving the blues without a striker, and it is no co-incidence that since his departure goals had virtually dried up.

Bishops Stortford 0 Lewes 0 – Woodside Park – Saturday 20th March 2010
Last week we wrote about our trip to Odense in Denmark under the heading “Never go back”, and that is exactly how Stortford returnee Duane Jackman must have felt as he hobbled off in his first game back at the club after fifteen minutes following a clash with Rikki Banks in the Lewes goal.  One became two when they lost a second player a few minutes later.  Two substitutions in the first twenty minutes?  It had to be Lewes’s day surely.  After failing to win a league game away from home for well over a year could this be their day?  The team came into the game seven points from safety but with two games in hand and an all important six pointer away at Worcester in a few weeks time, and they certainly tried to play like they meant to win.

The Lewes Lunatic fringe stared in disbelief when Walder’s shot skimmed the crossbar and the giant Nick Morgan in the Stortford goal had to make a good save from Jack Walder soon after.  The girls busied themselves in the first half by taking pictures and mocking a young Spurs shirt wearing lad who thought it was like something out of The Firm or Football Factory to run across the terrace we were on shouting “You can’t score”, “You are going down” and “You’re not going to score in a minute”…Tell us somethng we don’t know!

After a brief half time cup of tea in the boardroom, adorned with the glories of yesteryear, and of course the smiling mug of Jeff Stelling on the wall telling us about the latest scores from the rest of the country it was back out into the action.  Danny and Deaks, both sporting fetching TBIR badges for the day had brought their cakes with them and taunted the rest of the away following with “We’ve got cakes, we’ve got cakes, you ain’t”.

So what can I remember about the second half? Well it rained, alot.  Neither team created a chance until the 75th minute when Stortford’s Reece Prestedge should have scored when set up by a great run down the wing from Pavett but he headed wide and we spotted the Stortford Manager Mark Simpson sporting a West Ham tracksuit top whilst parading around in the technical area with the initials “MD” on, which is a tad strange.  Simpson certainly didn’t like the major incident in the second half, going ballistic at the linesman when the referee sent off Ali Abdullahi near the end, not realising that he had been booked already.  It was the first time I had heard a manager apologise for his words in a long time.

So with time ticking down the final chance to wrap up all three points fell to captain Anthony Barness when his shot from distance through a crowd of players failed to take the necessary deflection and Nick Morgan smothered it well with a host of Lewes players waiting for a mistake.  Nil Nil it ended and it hadn’t been a classic on the field, but off it it was a great afternoon out for the girls.

After a few handshakes in the boardroom and a quick pork pie we were off down the M11 for a night with the X-Factor finalists.  Whatever you do Lewes, “Don’t stop believin'”…

If you are desperate for some more, have a read of the EFW day here.

Video thanks to Ben Dellows from Bishops Stortford FC